Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Snow Leopard nice touch: no more "Picture 1" files

I've always been a fan of ⌘-Shift-4 for taking quick and easy screenshots on my Mac, even with such level-up options as Jing, Skitch, GrabUp and LittleSnapper readily to hand. What I wasn't a fan of, however, was the proliferation of "Picture 1," "Picture 2,"... up to "Picture N" screenshot files on my desktop. Not only was it tricky to figure out which Picture file was which (a task made easier with Quick Look), it was also reasonably likely that at some point I'd overwrite a Picture 1 someplace that I wanted to keep with a brand-new Picture 1 I just snapped and copied off my desktop.

It's certainly not one of the marquee features of Mac OS X 10.6, but there's one little Snow Leopard tweak that's already won my heart: no more Picture 1s! Screenshots to file created via the system key commands (⌘-Shift-3 or -4, add the Control key to capture to the Clipboard instead of to a file) now get a name that's quite a bit more descriptive, including the date and time of the capture. No more file name collisions, no more wondering which Picture is the one you took of that cryptic error message in the middle of the night. Viva Snow!

Snow Leopard: Find what you're looking for

One of the little frustrations in my everyday use of Leopard was the way it searched in folders. When in a Finder window, there was a handy-looking search box in the upper right-hand corner. I would place the cursor, type my query, and be annoyed by the fact that OS X searched my entire Mac.

Nooo. If I wanted to search the whole thing, I would have asked to search the whole thing.

Thank goodness Snow Leopard fixes this minor workflow speed bump. Now you can choose what you'd like to use as a default: Search This Mac or Search the Current Folder. You can even say "I'll have another" by choosing to Use the Previous Search Scope.

Unfortunately the default out-of-the-box action is still set to look everywhere on your Mac. But don't worry, it's easy to change.
  1. Make sure Finder is your active app (either click on the Finder icon in the dock, click the desktop or a visible Finder window, or cmd-Tab to switch to the Finder).
  2. Choose Preferences in the Finder menu. Or you can just use the Command-comma key combo to invoke Preferences.
  3. In Finder Preferences, click on the Advanced tab.
  4. Choose your desired search scope from the drop-down menu under the heading "When performing a search."
  5. Close the Preferences and enjoy a search or two.
That's it. Just one example of the many little changes in Snow Leopard that make life with the OS easier and more efficient.

Apple: "Exploding" iPhones succumbed to external pressure

There's been much news of "exploding" iPhones lately. If you're unfamiliar with the story, the European Commission formally asked Apple to investigate a series of reports that users' iPhones were abruptly cracking and/or catching fire. According to the French periodical Les Echos, an iPhone in Aix-en-Provence, France, started to "crackle and pop like a deep-frier" before breaking violently apart.

This past Friday, Apple said that, in all cases, the iPhones in question were damaged by an "external force," not a faulty battery or glass screen:
"To date, there are no confirmed battery overheating incidents for iPhone 3GS and the number of reports we are investigating is in the single digits. The iPhones with broken glass that we have analyzed to date show that in all cases the glass cracked due to an external force that was applied to the iPhone."
It does seem odd that at least four cases have been reported in France in short order. Still, it's even stranger that iPhones would suddenly turn into Molotov cocktails. We'll keep you updated on this story.

TIPS : Snow Leopard

My first surprise came when one application asked me to make sure that my date and time settings were correct. I dutifully popped into System Preferences, clicked on the Date & Time preferences pane, clicked on the Time Zone tab, and noticed a couple of things that were different:

First, the time zone I'm in (Mountain) was highlighted and as I moved my cursor left and right, a "ghost" appeared for whatever time zone I was currently over (see arrow above). That in itself wasn't anything great, but the check box at the top -- Set time zone automatically using current location (see oval above) -- was intriguing so I clicked on it. The map went to shades of gray, and then Snow Leopard used the SkyHook Wireless's Wi-Fi positioning service to figure out where I was.

This will be wonderful when I'm traveling for business or pleasure, as I no longer have to remember to set my local time zone when I arrive at a new location. Of course, it's not going to be very useful if you're in an area with little or no Wi-Fi...

The second cool feature was one that was pointed out by resident boy genius Brett Terpstra. It's the text substitution feature that's tucked away in System Preference -- Language & Text. What you can do is set up system-wide text substitutions for various shortcuts. For example, I set one up that uses the letters "sl" as a shortcut for "Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard." In any of the apps that use these text substitutions, I just need to type "sl" and I get the whole enchilada.

This doesn't work in a lot of applications, unfortunately, but it's fun to use where it does work. In Mail.app, iChat, TextEdit, and a handful of other apps, I was able to turn on text substitution from the Edit menu. These apps then used the shortcuts I had set up in the Language & Text sysprefs panel to speed up typing.

My personal favorite tip involves stacks in the Dock. Stacks are the folders that usually end up in the lower right corner of the dock. I usually set up my Macs with three stacks in the Dock -- downloads, documents, and applications. Now I can use my application stack as a type of quick launcher. A click on the stack brings up the grid icon view of the apps, and I just type the first couple of letters of the application name, then press return to launch it.

QuickTime X also has a few nice new features. In playback, the FF / Rew buttons "stick", and if you want to go backwards or forwards through your video even faster, you click on those buttons again to accelerate the motion. I really like the screen recording feature found under the File menu as well, since it's a very fast way to create spur-of-the-moment screencasts for friends or clients.

This next one might have been something you could do in earlier versions of Mac OS X, but it's new to me. A reader pointed out that if you option-click on the sync icon in the menu bar, you now get a complete sync history as well as some sync diagnostics and a way to reset sync history without having to fire up iSync:

The final tip has nothing to do with actually running Snow Leopard...or does it? TUAW reader Jared A. reminded us that the music played at the end of the Snow Leopard installation (which also appeared in Leopard) is the song "Exodus Honey" by Honeycut. It's available in the iTunes Store.

4G, apple, EV-DO, iphone, LTE, munster, verizon

Munster noted that having multiple carriers in a market has helped Apple to achieve greater success in terms of market penetration. He pointed to France as an example; originally, Apple inked an exclusive arrangement with Orange. When it moved to a multi-carrier deal, Apple's market share in France jumped to about the 40 percent range. In the U.S., the iPhone's market share is only in the mid-teens.

Many industry pundits expect the next iPhone carrier to be Verizon, since they are beginning a transition to a new, iPhone-compatible 4G network (LTE) in the next year. This would make the transition rather simple for Apple, since they wouldn't have to design an EV-DO iPhone, but instead just use the current hardware design.

iPhone OS 3.0 breaking video out

Last night I received an email from a friend who was irate. He's been using his iPod touch as a portable video solution with a dock and video out cable. The iPod and the cable got along famously until he updated to iPhone OS 3.0.1 OS 3.0 [sorry, there isn't a 3.0.1 for the iPod touch]. Now, the iPod refuses to recognize it. Same cable, same dock, same iPod.

We looked around and found that he's not alone. There's a thread on Apple's Discussion Boards reporting the same thing. It's affecting both the iPod touch and the iPhone. Apparently 3.0 is specifically designed to reject 3rd party cables, strictly on the premise that they fail the "Made by Apple" test. One poster on the discussion board notes that the original Apple Component AV cable and dock work fine. Sure, you could restore and downgrade, but that seems silly.

Of course, no company has a responsibility to support 3rd party devices, so my friend is out of luck. But we're sympathetic. If you're affected by this issue, all we can say is it's probably time to pony up for a cable from Apple.